|Film Review: The Birth of a Nation
History 319 F01, Alisa Harrison
University of Victoria
Due Date: November 20; film screening on November 6
In 7-10 doubled-spaced pages, discuss the ways in which the film The Birth of a Nation represents the politics of racialization in the 19th-century United States, and its possible contributions to the ongoing construction of white supremacy at the turn of the 20th century.
You may approach this analysis from any perspective you wish. You are encouraged to draw on the major themes we confront in the course, primarily the historical specificity of race and racism; the intersection of race, sex, class and gender; and the significance of representation to political, social and cultural discourse.
Be sure to provide an argument of your own, rather than simply a description or summary of the film’s content. Essays that lack a clear thesis will not receive a passing grade. You may draw on all required course materials, as well as the suggested readings listed below. We will watch the film as a group in class on Nov. 6, and I recommend that you complete all readings prior to viewing.
See course outline for formatting and presentation guidelines.
Suggested sources you may wish to consult:
Books on reserve in the library:
Thomas Cripps, Slow Fade to Black: The Negro in American Film 1900-1942 (Oxford, 1977).
Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks In
American Films (Continuum, 2001).
Grace Elizabeth Hale, Making Whiteness (Pantheon, 1998). *this has been ordered and should be
available sometime soon
Articles available in History reading room:
Richard Dyer, “Into the Light: The Whiteness of the South in The Birth of a Nation.” Dixie Debates:
Perspectives on Southern Culture. Richard H. King, et. al, ed. (NYU Press, 1996).
Articles on website, http://web.uvic.ca/~ayh/Assignments319.htm:
Arthur Lennig, "Myth and fact: the reception of The Birth of a Nation." Film History. 16.2 (April
David Blight, “The Birth of a Genre: Slavery on Film.” Common Place. Vol 1, No. 4 (July 2001).
Brian Gallagher, “Racist Ideology and Black Abnormality in The Birth of a Nation.” Phylon. Vol. 43, No.
1 (1st Qtr., 1982), pp. 68-76.
Michael Rogin, “’The Sword Became a Flashing Vision’: D.W. Griffiths’ The Birth of a Nation.”
Representations. No. 9, Special Issue: American Culture Between the Civil War and World War
I. Winter 1985, pp. 150-195.